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Protests held at Tim Hortons over cuts to paid breaks, benefits

Last Updated Jan 11, 2018 at 7:51 am EDT

Wednesday was being called a day of action, as several rallies took off in cities across Ontario, including around the GTA, in support of Tim Hortons’ employees.

Dozens also gathered in the parking lot of the restaurant in Cobourg, that caused an uproar last week when it was reported the owners, who were heirs to the Tim Hortons fortune, were cutting paid breaks and employee benefits following the $14 minimum wage that came into effect on Jan. 1.

“These particular franchise owns have rolled out the working conditions of the woreks inside in retaliation of what should be celebrated as a $2.40 for workers in the province of Ontario,” John MacDonald, with the Durham Region Labour Council, explained.

“These workers are at the lowest of the income scale in the province of Ontario.”

An earlier rally was also organized at the Tim Hortons near Keele and Wilson, and was attended by advocates and members of several different labour unions.

“To the business owners who may be contemplating (doing the same thing) out of spite because they had to give their employees a raise … I caution them not to because the Ontario labour movement will mobilize like this province hasn’t see in a long time,” Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour tells CityNews.

Several Tim Hortons chains have been accused of making policy changes that impact their employees. The reports struck a chord with Queen’s Park last week, when Premier Kathleen Wynn called Tim Hortons bullies.

On Wednesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, made an appearance at the protest in Coburg, criticizing how the Liberals rolled out the wage hike.

“The bottom line is the minimum wages in the province should have ben going up for years now, they should have been going up year after year at a much rate then they have been,” she said.

“We’re left now with a situation that we’re in, where there’s a great backlash but lets face it, no single mom or dad should have to work two or three jobs to put food on the table.”

The Tim Hortons corporation issued a response last week, stating these restaurants were independently owned and operated, that these recent actions were made by a few franchisees and don’t reflect the values of the brand or that of the majority of their restaurant owners.

The Tim Hortons Corporation declined to provide an additional comment on the day of the protest.

Sid Ryan, the former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said though franchisees are being held responsible for these changes, the corporation also has a role to play.

“They control the wages, they actually control the price of a cup of coffee,” Ryan said.

“They could say to Tim Hortons franchises all over the province, you can raise the price of coffee by a couple cents to be able to be able to pay workers a decent wage.”

Business advocates have said owners were forced into make these adjustments in order to survive.

Matt Brumsey, who owns an independent business, says he’s had to layoff employees and closed the doors to one of his branches and says the criticism of the Tim Hortons in Cobourg isn’t fair.

“People aren’t realizing these are franchisees. We do the books for some people like this and they’re all not making big money,” Brumsey explained.

“She’s not doing this kind of things to hurt people, she’s doing it to keep people in jobs and that’s what people have to realize.”

Related stories:

Tim Hortons regulars launch #NoTimmiesTuesday over minimum wage response

Franchisees’ cuts to paid breaks, benefits ‘reckless’: Tim Hortons

Wynne accuses Tim Hortons founders’ children of bullying employees